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11 October 2013, 15:27
A 25-year-old man has been the first driver prosecuted in Kent for causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
The offence became law in December last year – the same month that Jonathan Ellis of Front Road, Woodchurch collided head-on with another vehicle in Ashford.
Ellis escaped serious injury but the other driver, 59-year-old Pat Ireland of York Road, Ashford, has been left unable to work since and permanently disabled.
At Canterbury Crown Court on Friday (11 October 2013) Ellis, who had admitted driving dangerously at an earlier hearing, was sentenced to two years imprisonment and disqualified from driving for eight years. He will then have to re-apply for a provisional driving licence and take both parts of the driving test again before he will be allowed to drive legally.
After the sentencing, investigating officer PC Steve Wade from Kent Police’s Roads Policing Unit said: ‘This new offence, which bridges the previous gap between dangerous driving and causing death by dangerous driving, reflects the massively life-changing injuries that have left Pat Ireland unable to run her own business and permanently disabled.
‘Pat has faced the last nine months with immense bravery and with the loving support of her family. She has been very courageous in talking publicly about her injuries in the hope it might prevent other drivers from behaving in the way Jonathan Ellis did.
‘This collision was entirely avoidable and our investigation showed that Ellis’s driving that evening was only going to end up in tragedy. He showed no remorse during interview, I can only hope that he will now reflect on the devastating consequences of his behaviour.”
The Ashford businesswoman was treating her night staff to a late-night snack and had just left a fast food outlet on the Eureka Leisure Park in Ashford when Ellis’s car came careering towards her on the wrong side of Trinity Road. Pat had no chance to get out of the way and the Nissan Almera driven by Ellis hit her Jaguar head-on.
Despite a serious head injury and being in terrible pain from a badly broken ankle, Pat was able to phone for help from her car phone which was on speed dial to the St Valery care home she had run in York Road for 22 years. Husband, Jim, and her family were on the scene in minutes.
Still tearful at the memory of the collision, Pat said: “I remember thinking that I was going to die and that there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.”
She is full of praise for the police, ambulance and fire crews who cared for her during the two hours it took to free Pat from her car. She was taken to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford where the immediate priority for doctors was to treat the gaping wound at the front of her head. She had a 6ins cut from one side of her forehead to the other, the skin had been forced back and she was virtually scalped.
The mother of two and grandmother of six was in hospital for 16 days recovering from a compound fracture to her right ankle, two skull fractures, front lobal brain damage, two broken verterbrae in the neck, eye damage resulting in a cataract. She has also since been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Pat has undergone two operations on her right ankle and earlier in her treatment there was concern that she might have to have her foot amputated. She has to wear an ankle brace permanently as she has no tendon support to the ankle joint. She has been left permanently disabled and will have to walk with a crutch.
To her great sadness, the brain damage resulting from her head injury has meant that Pat is no longer able to run the care home.
“I cannot fill in the simplest of forms - I used to fill in forms for the elderly people on a daily basis but now it is impossible. I get mixed up with my words and get tired very easily and I seem to cry all the time. I hardly ever cried before the crash,” Pat said.
Pat has nothing but contempt for the man who has devastated her life.
“If only he had said he was sorry. I am the one with the life sentence – I am the prisoner. I cannot go out on my on my own, I can hardly walk and I may never be able to drive again.
“Apart from the pain resulting from the injuries and the continuing hospital treatment, I feel that he has robbed me of so much. I was such an independent woman – but not anymore. I have to depend on others so that I can live my life and that is a big price to pay.”